Gatwick mystery deepens as couple released without charge and damaged drone found near airport

£50,000 reward offered for information leading to arrest and charge of culprit

Gatwick drones: airport reopens after three days of flight delays cause Christmas travel chaos

A man and a woman arrested over the drone activity that prompted days of chaos at Gatwick Airport have been released without charge, Sussex Police have said.

Their release comes after several sightings of a drone around the airport caused around 1,000 flights to be cancelled, affecting 140,000 passengers ahead of the year’s busiest weekend of travel.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said both people arrested over the illegal use of drones co-operated with detectives’ enquiries.

The police have also found a damaged drone on the airfield which will now be forensically examined.

He said: “I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick.

“It is important to remember that when people are arrested in an effort to make further enquiries it does not mean that they are guilty of an offence and Sussex Police would not seek to make their identity public.”

The airport has offered a £50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the widespread disruption.

On Sunday, Mr Tingley said: “Our inquiry continues at a pace to locate those responsible for the drone incursions, and we continue to actively follow lines of investigation.

“We ask for the public’s continued support by reporting anything suspicious, contacting us with any information in relation to the drone incidents at Gatwick.”

He added: "[Saturday] morning we discovered a damaged drone close to the perimeter of Gatwick Airport and that is of course a significant line of enquiry.

"We are not back to square one. Whilst these two people have been in custody, we have a number of lines of enquiry and persons of interest."

Paul Gait, 47, and his wife Elaine Kirk, 54, were detained by Sussex Police at their home in the town of Crawley, west Sussex – just five miles from the runway – on Friday night.

Mr Gait, a father-of-two who works as a window fitter, was known by neighbours to be keen on flying model planes and helicopters.

But his boss had insisted he was working at the time the drones were spotted in Gatwick airspace.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled or diverted after drones were first spotted inside the perimeter of the UK’s second biggest airport on Wednesday.

Labour has called for an independent inquiry after accusing the government of failing to act on the risks posed by drones at Gatwick.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed there were missed opportunities to prevent the airport from coming under such an attack.

“The government was repeatedly warned about the risks posed by drones to aviation but failed to act,” he said.

Mr McDonald added: “The delay in bringing forward legislation is indicative of this government’s failure to concentrate on the day-to-day business in front of them. They have taken their eye off the ball.

“The scale of disruption is unacceptable and it demands that we find out how this was allowed to happen, which is why Labour are calling for an independent inquiry.”

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